We were invited to attend a WW2 day, organized by the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) museum at MOD Lyneham. As one of our members is ex-REME we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help the museum and also have a good look at the displays in the new museum.
The REME museum has only been on this new site since it moved from Arborfield in 2015, officially re-opening in June 2017. The new museum is not large, compared with the likes of the Imperial War Museum, but the quality is more than comparable.
Naturally we took along our WW2 North Africa REME workshop display, plus a few assorted weapons of that period.
The exhibits in the museum contain the only surviving beach armoured recovery vehicles (B.A.R.V.). This was the first vehicle that the REME specifically modified for its needs. The chassis is standard Sherman tank, with the top modified to wade the waters of the Normandy beaches and to recover stranded vehicles from the beachhead.
This is the R.E.M.E. birth certificate, marking the formation of the Corps on the 1st October 1942.
We had a great day and must thank the staff of the museum for looking after us and providing us with everything we needed during the day.
Last weekend we attended our inaugural event of the year. We were displaying our First World War impression to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of Seale Hayne becoming a military hospital.
Seale-Hayne College was an agricultural college in Devon, England, which operated from 1919 to 2005. It was the only agricultural college in the United Kingdom whose buildings were purpose designed and built.
The college was established in accordance with the will of Charles Seale Hayne (1833-1903), a Liberal politician who was a Devon land-owner. The college was built between 1912 and 1914, but its opening was delayed by the start of the First World War. During the war it served as a training centre for Land Girls, and in 1918 and 1919 it operated as a military neurasthenic hospital for the treatment of soldiers suffering from shell shock.
As a group we set up a trench display, advanced first aid post and a rear lines living area with stables for horses.
We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and the re-introduction to the world of living history. Hopefully we raised some money for the the Royal British Legion and the charity that now runs Seale Hayne, Dame Hannah Rodgers Charity.
Looking forward to showing off our WW1 equipment and uniforms to more of the public throughout the coming year.
It was CarFest 2016 that prompted us to start our own group Homefront to Battlefront and after thoroughly enjoying the 2016 event, we had been eagerly awaiting our return this year, after being invited to attend again.
Yet again we were to be an integral part of the Vintage Village, which this year comprised of exhibits and vehicles from the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s.
We arrived on the Thursday morning and received a very well organised reception and were directed towards the new location of vintage village where we were greeted by our host Alex from Vintage Parade.
Before we could start on our display, we had to make our way to the participant camping area, to not only pitch out tents but to make sure we had 2 pitches next to our 2 for our friends that were arriving later that evening and our guest who would be arriving early Friday morning.
Bell tents and camp set up, we proceeded back to the vintage village to tackle the ‘Big Top’.
After measuring out our pitch and overcoming a couple of small hitches we proceeded to erect our marquee. This is the third time we have put the marquee up and it gets easier every time. It has been made easier since we found the official British Army instructions on how to erect the marquee, however it does advise that you need at least 10 men to erect it….
Once the marquee was up we then set about setting up our display. This weekend we would be honouring all the men and women that fought in the Far East against the Japanese aggression, with our Far East display. We would also be showing our Homefront display as we had a lot of interest in this last year and the kids especially like seeing our 1940’s rationing display.
Right opposite our display was the fantastic display of pedals cars and prams from our good friends Mark and Justine. Every year their display gets bigger and better.
By the time we had finished and secured the marquee for the night it was 6pm. With hunger and thirst issue, we retreated back to the camp site for a barbecue. Our friends, Ricky and Sarah, turned up just after 7pm, just in the nick of time for the barbecue.
Ricky was booked in to perform on the stage in the Vintage on both the Friday and Saturday and we were all looking forward to hearing the Welsh Wonder blow his trumpet. To see and hear how great he is, go and watch his videos on his Facebook page Ricky Hunter Male Vocalist Trumpeter and even give him a like..
Friday morning soon beckoned and after some breakfast and a shower, in the facilities provided to the camping field, we made the trek across the CarFest site to the vintage village. It is only when you see the site without any public, do you notice the huge amount of people that are working hard to get the festival ready for the public to arrive at lunchtime. Our hats go off to all the security staff who tirelessly manned all the gates, entrances and looked after us and our display while we enjoyed the evening entertainment.
Friday morning also heralded the arrival of the last member our CarFest team, Darren, who had travelled down from South Wales to spend the weekend as our Hong Kong policeman and to show the public his brilliant WW1 soldier impression.
While we opened up the marquee and dressed our display, we could see the public streaming not the public camping fields in the far distance, this year CarFest had sold 50% more tickets than the previous year. It wasn’t long until 12 o’clock arrived and the first of the public entered the Carfest site.
Ricky Hunter played Friday afternoon and went down a storm, with loads of great comments from the public.
We were busy talking to people all afternoon and 6pm soon arrived. 6pm was our finish time and vintage village closed not long after.
Again, we retreated to our campsite, had some food, got changed and headed out for the first evening of entertainment at the Main Stage. After grabbing a drink, we managed through, some industrious maneuvering, to make our way down to the front of the stage.
Our highlight of the night, out of all the acts, had to be the Kaiser Chiefs, they were brilliant and had the whole crowd singing along and on their feet.
Saturday morning we awoke to cloudless sky and it turned out to be the hottest day of the weekend. The day was to start at 10 am for the public and we had to be ready for 9:30 am. After some coffee and bacon, we were ready for the day.
Saturday also was the day that two of our group would be portraying first world war Tommie’s. You need to appreciate that the WW1 uniform is made from a thick Serge wool material, also the undershirts are made of wool. Perfect for winter in the trenches.
A huge ammount of respect goes out to Tom and Darren for spending the day in their WW1 uniform, educating and informing the public about the sacrifice our forefathers made in the first world war. It was very hot and by the end of the day the heat had taken it out of them.
Again, it was a very busy day and we spoke to lots of people whose family had fought out in the Far East and as ever learned things we did not know.
We had a lovely bunch of ladies come and visit us, who demanded a picture with a soldier…
Ricky played the stage in vintage village again and some of the group got to slip away from our display and go and support him, he even had a troupe of dancers to dance along to his tunes (Cats got Rhythm)
We also got a lovely treat when a Spitfire flew very low over vintage village. The sound from the engine is just incredible and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Saturday night again was a dash back to our campsite, showers, food, drinks, get change and back out again. We were then treated to the spectacle that is the Jackson’s and it was a ‘full on’ show. It was brilliant how they showed the original 70’s music videos in the background as they played live on stage.
Another bright and early start to the day, this time it proved a little more difficult to get up and get going, all thanks to a late night boogey’ing to the Jacksons. However after a couple of coffees and a sausage bap and we were ready to take on the day and meet the public again. Another fabulous day was instore in the vintage village.
During the morning, the guys went off for a wander wound the Best of British field and just happened to meet a Burmese snake. The snake for some reason the snake did not like the guys in uniform, perhaps he recognised them from the jungle….
Sunday again proved to be a very warm day and the shade from the marquee was appreciated by a lot of people. One of the reasons we bought the marquee was to provide some protection for the weather, but we always envisaged this to be shelter from rain, not sunshine.
Tom entered the vintage village best dressed competition and got 3rd prize.
For the second time we had a fly over from a spitfire, this time he gave us a wiggle of his wings after seeing we were friendly troops.
By the time 6pm came around that evening, we were all very tired but we were determined to keep going, as we had the Sunday night finale to look forward too. We were all looking forward to seeing the Manic Street Preachers, Rick Astley and the firework finale and none of them disappointed.
Monday was our day to take down and pack up. After a lazy start and some breakfast and saying our goodbyes to our guests, we packed the campsite away and made our way across to the vintage village for the last time this year.
We proceeded with packing our display away and taking down our marquee and then said goodbye to our friends Mark and Justine. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another year to see them again.
Then we made our way slowly home, exhausted but also very happy. A great weekend spent in the best company at a great event.
We hope that anybody that came to see us, leaves with a bit more knowledge and an appreciation of the sacrifices that the men and women made fighting for us in the Far East.
From the epitaph in Kohima on the border between India and Burma, the place where the Japanese invasion of India was halted and driven back.
'When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today'
We must thank Alex, from Vintage Parade, for inviting us again and looking after us, the lunches were fantastic and were much appreciated by all our team.
We must also thank all of the team at CarFest for the brilliant organisation, the music that they arranged and the friendly atmosphere that was present all weekend.
We must thank the security staff, that showed us where to go, opened gates, guided us and looked after the security of our campsite and display all weekend. This enabled us to relax and not worry about our possessions.
We must also thank our guests, Darren for spending the weekend with us and complimenting our display. Ricky and Sarah for entertaining us and bringing some fabulous Welsh beef burgers.
Lastly we couldn’t do this without the tireless efforts of the team at Homefront to Battlefront. Sam, Tina, Chris, Tom, Patch and Mike.
CarFest 2017 has been the culmination of a years’ worth of planning and preparation, with many trials and errors along the way, but we I like to think we got there in the end. We thoroughly enjoy this event and love raining money for the great charity that is BBC’s Children in Need.
Our Second event of August was Retro Festival at Newbury Showground, where we were booked in as exhibitors with our Forgotten 14th Army, Burma display.
We arrived on the Friday morning and we were shown to our pitch. We were a little apprehensive as we had not attended before and we did not know what to expect. What we got was a friendly welcome from the organisers, a large area to set up on and quickly settled in.
After a couple of teething problems with the ‘big top’, we got the field hospital tent up and set out our display ready for the Saturday morning. The next task was our accommodation so we got about pitching our Bell tents behind the display and setting up our messing area.
Retro Festival officially opened on the Friday evening for Music and entertainment, so after some food, we changed into our glad rags and went for a wander.
There are 3 music marquees playing music from the 40’s (WW2 and swing), 50’s (Rock and Roll) and 60s/70s/80s (Northern Soul, Soul, Mod etc.).
Saturday and Sunday were the open days for the public to come and see our display. Saturday was very busy and we met lots of great people whose relatives had served in Burma. They all had a story to tell and it was fascinating to hear them.
Saturday evening, we paid a visit to each of the music marquees, but retired to bed early as we were all tired.
Sunday again was very busy and by 6pm we had closed up our display and started to pack up. 3 hours later we were driving out of Newbury Showground after having had, an absolute brilliant weekend.
We all thoroughly enjoyed this event, there was a lovely atmosphere, lots of people made an effort and dressed in various retro styles and the organisation was brilliant. We would recommend this show to anyone who loves anything vintage. The music was great, there were loads of vintage vehicles, lots of vintage traders and we were made to feel very welcome.
All in all, a fantastic weekend and hope to return.
The first weekend of August was yet again Torbay Steam Fair and we had been invited back with our display.
It was to be a weekend of firsts for our group. For one of our members it was the first time attending the event in over 20 years. For another member, it was the first time he had portrayed a WW1 Tommy in the trenches and last but no least it was the first outing of our new big top.
Due to the weather, the public day on Friday 4th, had to be cancelled. This meant that our set up day was moved from the Thursday to the Friday.
It was the right decision by the committee to keep the event attendees and public away as it helped to preserve the site and stopped it getting churned up by all the vehicle movement.
Friday was spent setting up and learning the ways of our new tent, which is in fact a British Army Field Hospital tent, the design has not changed since the first world war.
Saturday and Sunday were the open days for the public and as hoped the sun came out and the weather was perfect all weekend.
A WW1 Trench system had been dug and trench tours were conducted all weekend.
Yet again we had a great weekend supporting this local event, for some of the group, raising money for S.S.A.F.A. and we are already looking forward to next year.
On Saturday 24th June we were invited by Hidden Heritage to return to Plymouth Armed Forces Day on Plymouth Hoe.
We were part of the History Zone and with crowds expected to be over 40,000 we knew we would have a busy day. With us in the zone were a display from Hidden Heritage, Warriors of Ragnarok, a Viking combat display team, Plymouth Medieval Society, Sealed Knott Society Group and some members of the 29th US Infantry Division with a couple of their Willy’s Jeeps.
We had our Forgotten 14th Display and the WAS(B) girls, which had so much interest, especially from people who knew or had relatives who served in Burma. We also met several Veterans who were in Korea and it was an honour for us to chat with them, they were so proud to show their medals which they had earned.
As always our weapons display had so much interest and also our box of Wartime Smells was very popular, with many families trying them and trying to guess what they may be.
It was a real pleasure to be asked back to this special event and it made it all the worthwhile hearing all the lovely feedback, about what we do, from the people we talked to.
Thanks also to Sam from Free2Be Photography for some great photos, here is the link to her facebook page free2besamscantlebury
This year at the Dig for Victory show we were asked to do a display to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle of El Alamein, North Africa, 1942.
The A.T.S. girls displayed their mobile canteen and office. The ‘Desert Rats’ set up their desert warfare display including Mortar pit, Camp area and forward R.E.M.E. workshop, accompanied by a Universal carrier, 6 Pounder Anti tank gun, Anti tank gun portee and an Austin K6 truck.
Many thanks to the owners for the loan of their vehicles for our display.
We had a great weekend speaking to the public and some WW2 veterans. We also heard many accounts of Fathers, Uncles and other relatives that served in North Africa.
Many servicemen and women fought in the North African campaign and we aim to ensure that their sacrifices are not forgotten, Lest We Forget.
This weekend we attended our first show of the year as Homefront to Battlefront. We spent both Saturday and Sunday at the fabulous Torbay Airshow, where we premiered our new Burma display honouring the men and women who fought with the 14th Army.
It was a great weekend, where we met and talked with lots of interesting people, educated others on our equipment and our Burma display and listened to lots of stories from veterans and veterans families. We even met one Japanese gentleman who kindly translated the writing on our captured Japanese prayer flag.
The flying displays were fantastic. Its brilliant to think that it is all organised as a free event. We managed to collect some pennies in our S.S.A.F.A. charity bucket and hope we can raise more than we did last year. Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and speak to us, it is this interaction that makes it so rewarding.
Here are some pictures of our display over the weekend.
This weekend, 3rd and 4th of June, Homefront to Battlefront will be displaying for the first time this year at the Torbay Air Show on Paignton Green. We will be concentrating on portraying the men and women who fought for and helped the 14th Army in Burma, from late 1943 to the end of the war in 1945.
The British Fourteenth Army was a multinational force comprising units from Commonwealth countries during World War II. Many of its units were from the Indian Army as well as British units and there were also significant contributions from West and East African divisions within the British Army.
It was often referred to as the “Forgotten Army” because its operations in the Burma Campaign were overlooked by the contemporary press, and remained more obscure than those of the corresponding formations in Europe for long after the war.
For most of the Army’s existence, it was commanded by Lieutenant-General William Slim.
If you are attending the Torbay Air Show, please come and find us and say hello.
This was how Monty described the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in North Africa.
At the outset of WW2, the maintenance and repair of equipment was largely in the hands of individual Regiments and several of the then extant Corps. Such as the Royal Army Ordinance Corps, the Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Engineers and so on.
This led to much conflict of interest, some ridiculous and very ingenious indenting for spares and tools and very disparate standards of efficiency from Unit to Unit. It was almost impossible to enforce best practices under such circumstances and efficiency was falling off rapidly at a time when a uniformly high standard was desperately needed.
As a result of decisions made by a Cabinet Committee formed to overcome this problem, chaired by Sir William Beveridge. It was decided that a single Corps should be set up to deal with maintenance and repair of all Army equipment. To that end, the nexus of the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers was formed in 1942. From the very beginning the newly formed Corps was designated Royal, a significant honour and indicative of the faith engendered in it’s innate ability to deliver the goods as required.
Many Tradesmen from the RAOC, RASC and the RE’s were transferred to the newly minted REME, immediate steps were also taken to provide trade training and even Apprentice facilities for the new Corps. Because of the exigencies of the War and the difficulties in separating everything at once, with resultant chaos and resentment from established chains of command, it was decided to implement the changeover in two phases.
Initially, in Phase one, each Regiment kept a small cadre of personnel on strength to do running repairs to vehicles and equipment. RASC Transport Company’s kept, for the time being, their own Base Workshops and the RE’s continued to maintain their own specialised equipment such as Construction plant and Railway Rolling stock. All Regiments and other units were affiliated to a Field or Base Workshop run by REME for their secondary and major repairs.
They also carried out the recovery of knocked out tanks from the battlefield and to do this they eventually were equipped with Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV) which were versions of the basic tank, with no main armament, a dummy turret and with a crane and winch attached. This shows a Churchill ARV, which remained in service until the 1960’s.
REME’s first test came in the form of the Battle of El Alamein and it’s ability to rapidly restore damaged vehicles and equipment to battle readiness was sorely tested but emerged triumphant. This was instrumental in enabling Monty’s lads to keep up the pressure that soon broke the Afrika Korps and the Italian Army’s ability to stand and slog it out. REME’s policy of providing repair facilities, known as Field Workshops, as close to the “Front” as possible was a great success
This year one member of our group will be celebrating the 75th Birthday of the REME during numerous shows.
Here are some pictures of the R.E.M.E, in North Africa repairing the equipment of the British 8th Army, circa late 1942
Welcome to Homefront to Battlefront Living History Group.
Here you will find the latest news from the group, showing what we have been getting up to.
With our fist event few months away, winter is used to make the preparations needed for the up and coming season.
We are currently looking at increasing the canvas for our display. We want a big enough canvas, that if the weather is bad, we can retreat our display under the canvas and allow the public to come in under our canvas. This will hopefully make it more comfortable for the public during times of bad weather, we all know what British summers can be like.
This year we have a new exciting display and demonstration for the public, more details to follow. Below is a little clue.